It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

When the Fuller’s Christmas trees go up on the Griffin Brewery there’s no denying that the Christmas season is upon us. Usually I bury my head in the sand as long as possible but this year I’ve decided to embrace it. So here is your Chiswick Calendar Christmas guide.

Some ideas for original Christmas presents

Jewellery by Shelley Thomas

Tucked away by Kew Bridge there’s a community of around twenty arts and crafts producers, among them Shelley Thomas, who makes beautiful, very distinctive silver jewellery. She creates her own pieces, customises jewellery to your design and also offers one day silver smithing courses for £170 or £150 each for two people.

You can buy direct from her workshop in the Old Pay Office at the Steam Museum, through her website: or phone her on 07947 032286.

Stiletto Coat pegs by Derek Pearce

This quirky idea for a coat rack caught my eye. Derek Pearce is a woodcarver, sculptor and furniture maker. Have a look on his website at the table he made for John Cleese with carved woodland animals running around the base and his hippo tables, with the eyes and noses just peeping above the glass table top – genius.

Website: Email:

Knobs by Neil Brown

Neil Brown is the resident blacksmith in the forge at the Steam Museum. His work ranges from bottle openers at the smallest, stocking filler size up to commissions for furniture such as gates, staircases and balconies. As a member of The Chiswick Calendar club card scheme he offers a discount of 10% to club card holders. You can also try your hand at blacksmithing yourself on one of his blacksmithing for beginners courses.

Website: Tel: 07784 284250. Email:

Christmas Three open studios

Three local artists will be showing their work next weekend. The Christmas Three Open Studios at 9 Windmill Rd, W4 1RN, just off the High Rd, will be featuring the work of artist Joanna Brendon, jeweller Annette O’Sullivan and weaver Bobbie Kociejowski.

Painting by Joanna Brendon Website:

The Christmas Three will be showing their work 1 – 3 December. Friday 6.00 – 9.00pm, Saturday 11.00am – 6.00pm. Sunday 11.00am – 6.00pm. On offer also is mulled wine and minced pies.

Jewellery by Annette O’Sullivan Contact: Annette O’Sullivan

Scarves and Shawls by Bobbie Kociejowski

Bobbie is a Canadian artist who happened upon weaving almost by accident when she was living in a remote mining town in the Rockies. In our video she talks about how she came to be a weaver and the importance of using colour.


Make your own at Mella Mella

When my kids were young we had several pottery cafes in the area. I still have a few dubious looking lumps of clay splodged with bright colours that I couldn’t possibly part with. Mella Mella has opened recently at 8 Essex Place W4 5UT, a ceramic painting and pottery wheel studio, kids corner, garden and café, which caters for parties, classes, and workshops.

Greige opens its doors at Bedford Corner

Homeware store Greige has been part of the club card scheme for a year, selling their beautiful range of interesting items for the home online and from their warehouse in Chiswick. They’ve just opened their first shop at Bedford Corner.

One of the items I really like are these Danish tin houses for tea lights. They come in different shapes and sizes so you can put them together and create your own little street. Sizes range from 10cm to 45cm high. Prices £11.50 – £69.
These and everything in the shop are available at 10% discount for holders of the Chiswick Calendar club card when you spend £75 or more – but make sure you have it with you and brandish it with a flourish! (Online the offer applies when you spend £50 – promo code ChisCal50). Greige Lifestyle Boutique 1 Bedford Corner, South Parade, W4.


Paddleboarding with Active 360 – fantastic offer if you book by 4 December

If you want to buy something that is not going to be quietly recycled to a charity shop, how about a gift voucher for paddle boarding with Active 360, based at Kew Bridge?

Normal price £65 for one person for a three hour lesson, they have a fantastic offer for club card holders available to book only until midnight on 4 December. Active 360 are offering club card members vouchers for TWO people together for just £99 for a three hour lesson.

To book online using the club card go to and use the promo code Calendar99, email: / Ring 0208 825 5360. They’re very flexible too, so if you wanted a two hour lesson rather than a three hour lesson or three people rather than two, ring them up and talk to them about it.

Lamb’s wool jumper from Cotswold Outdoors

Warm winter woollies from Cotswold Outdoor. Club card holders can buy this lovely Aigle Lofoty 100% lamb’s wool women’s jumper for £90 from Cotswold Outdoor, 323-327 Chiswick High Rd, W4 (normal price £99). The 10% discount applies to anything in the shop.

The latest in instant cameras from the Chiswick Camera Centre

All the rage this Christmas apparently is the Fujifilm Instax SQ10, an instant camera which also records to a Micro SD memory card and has a built in LCD screen, meaning that for the first time you can choose whether to print an image instantly, print multiple copies and edit before you print.

Normal price £249 from Chiswick Camera Centre, 4 Chiswick Terrace, Acton Lane, W4. Andy, the owner, is offering a £25 discount to club card holders, bringing the price down to £224.

Vouchers for a meal at Annie’s

Another idea for something which will not sit gathering dust – a gift voucher for Annie’s restaurant at Strand on the Green. Any amount from £20 – £300 available. Redeemable by the end of May 2018. Buy online at

Annie’s doesn’t have a club card offer in the restaurant in December but will resume its 15% discount to club card holders in January.

Outrage over pop up Christmas tree vendor

Pines & Needles, Acton Green Common

Pines & Needles has appeared on Acton Green Common, to the great annoyance of local trader Spencer Wheeler. Spencer runs Wheelers Garden Centre, tucked away beside Turnham Green tube station. Most of their trade at this time of year is in Christmas trees. He is ‘disgusted’ that Ealing council has allowed them to set up for just four weeks, creaming off some of the Christmas trade which helps local businesses like Wheelers and High Rd fruit and veg stall holders Collins to survive in Chiswick the rest of the year.

Wheelers Garden Centre, Turnham Green Terrace

Support local businesses

‘We need this month to struggle through January and February’ says Spencer. ‘I don’t think it’s fair that the council allows them to be here for just four weeks while we have to battle on, paying business rates and so on’. He plans to write to local MP Rupa Huq to ask for her support to stop this happening again next year and asks for our support.

Pines and Needles is open from 8.00am – 9.00pm and buy in bulk, but it might not work out cheaper buying your tree from them. Pines and Needles charge £5 for a wooden block to stand them on and £15 for delivery, whereas Wheelers provide both for free.

10% off Wheelers Christmas trees and decorations with a Chiswick Calendar club card

And then of course there’s The Chiswick Calendar club card. Club card holders get 10% off Christmas trees from Wheelers. And if we want to continue to be able to buy bedding plants in the spring, cut flowers from Wheelers florist and other services like landscape gardening the rest of the year, we’d better get behind them and support them.

Wheelers Garden Centre, Turnham Green Terrace

The Little Match Girl – theatre review

‘Chiswick Beach’ proposal ‘dangerous’

A proposal for a ‘mixed river leisure facility’ at Strand on the Green would be dangerous for people doing water sports according to those who currently use the river for kayaking and paddle boarding. The plan, called ‘Chiswick Beach’ would achieve the opposite of what it purports to offer by creating an obstacle in the river which would present a risk of entanglement, or ‘pinning’ for canoeists and paddleboarders at high tide, increasing their risk of drowning.

Houseboats, deckchairs and pedalos

The PLA have received an application in for the installation of piles, pontoons and moorings at Ball’s Wharf, which is the area just east of Kew Bridge, for a mixed used facility with 10 houseboats, a boat club for motorboats, a cafe and facilities for human powered watersports including pedalos. It promises ‘the increase of the use and enjoyment of the foreshore’ in what it calls a ‘blighted’ area in ‘a remote small landscaped area which is in disrepair.’ The proposal by Environomics Consultants says ‘As at any beach there will be the provision of deck chairs, picnicking, ice-cream, sunbathing etc … Chiswick Beach will not detract from the area; in fact it will be a beautiful reinvigoration of lost facilities and new leisure, recreational, arts, culture and the opportunity to enjoy the Thames.’

Chiswick Beach Plan

The plan shows the development stretching from the drawdock or slipway beside Kew Bridge almost as far as the Bell & Crown.

Paddleboarders and kayakers concerned about added risks to river users

It comes as news to the existing sporting clubs that: ‘It has been a significant asset to the area for riverside uses in the past, but this use has been lost recently. There is a significant deficiency of leisure provision.’ There are two Kayaking clubs and a paddleboarding company based at Kew Bridge.

Peter Hughes, chairman of the Kayak club Edge Progressive Paddling says they and Chelsea Kayak Club have more than a hundred members between them and with visitors in the summer they enable hundreds of people to use the river at Strand on the Green in the summer. He told me “This is not about improving the area for the community. In the summer the river is chocka with leisure boats, rowers paddleboarders, kayaks. This is about a greedy developer wanting to make a fast buck”.

Photograph by John Clare

He and Paul Hyman from Active 360, which runs paddleboarding from the arches at Kew Bridge both have concerns that a pontoon at Strand on the Green would make it more difficult for their members. The Thames at Strand on the Green is fully tidal. An immense amount of water is displaced each day and at high and low tide the river runs at a fast walking pace. Paddleboarders and kayakers use the power of the water. Typically they go from Kew to Richmond on the incoming tide and return on the ebb tide.

“There would be a pinning or entanglement hazard on the ebb tide” Paul Hyman told me. It would be easy, especially for beginners, to overshoot the landing and hit the pontoon. “They would have to be careful they don’t get swept in to it on the way back from Richmond.” The proposed pontoon would present a hazard as it would be easy to be pinned against it and trapped underneath.

The proposed development presents another problem for the kayak clubs. The first arch of Kew Bridge next to the north shore is blocked off, so to go upstream to Richmond they have to pass under the middle arch, which is where the water runs faster. At the moment they paddle downstream from the drawdock hugging the wall (exactly where the proposed development would be) so beginners can get used to the water before they have to make a sharp right turn and brave the midstream channel in order to go upstream. If that’s not an option they would have to go straight out into fast flowing water, which Peter Hughes says would make it too difficult for beginners.

More mud

Paul and Peter also think that the creation of a pontoon at that point would contribute to a build up of mud, which would make it more difficult than it already is to get in to the water. Paul told me what is needed to encourage more use of the river for water sports is a built causeway with a gentle slope down to the river at the existing draw dock. They also have concerns about the general public using pedalos unsupervised both because of the danger of collisions as there are so many rowers and because of the tides.

Ruining the historic view

The idea that Strand on the Green is ‘blighted’ also comes as a surprise to residents who on the whole rather like it the way it is. The Strand on the Green Residents Association is asking its members for their views. One member has replied to the PLA saying in his view the development is inappropriate because it ‘will damage the historic views and amenity of the riverside park and walking.’

Council approval?

The author of the report ‘Environomics Consultants’ says: Hounslow have requested that I should bring this to the planning committee after the works license application. The have advised that they would look favourably upon the application, as it is very similar to their own recently in Brentford.


If you have any comments please send them to the Chairman and to Jackie Evans, the PLA Licensing Officer at by 26 December

Christmas Lights in Chiswick

The Christmas lights will be turned on this Thursday (30 November) at George IV. The star of the show as always will be the Fuller’s dray horses, but there will also be a barbecue, Sipsmiths mulled sloe gin and carols from Belmont Primary School. 4.00pm till late with live music in the pub. All proceeds go to Shooting Star Chase Children’s Hospices.

Magical Lantern festival opens

The Chinese Lantern Festival has opened in the grounds of Chiswick House. I love the mix – a bit of Christian tradition, a bit of Chinese with a pinch of Hans Anderson and a dash of Disney. Thoroughly recommended, with or without kids. As much fun whether you’re going as a prelude to a few beers on a night out or as a place to take visiting family here for Christmas.

As you follow the marked path through the gardens you start with Father Christmas and his reindeer, come on to tableaux of Sleeping Beauty and her Prince, Disney’s Bambi, Dreamworks’ Antz, penguins, jelly fish and the Song Dynasty temple to name but a few. My favourite is Noah’s Ark.

20% off tickets with a club card

It’s expensive though, so take advantage of the club card deal of 20% off tickets. When you book online at just enter the promotional code Chiswick20 and show your club card on the gate when you go.

Outrage over pop up Christmas tree vendor

Pines & Needles has appeared on Acton Green Common, to the great annoyance of local trader Spencer Wheeler. Spencer runs Wheelers Garden Centre, tucked away beside Turnham Green tube station. Most of their trade at this time of year is in Christmas trees. He is ‘disgusted’ that Ealing council has allowed them to set up for just four weeks, creaming off some of the Christmas trade which helps local businesses like Wheelers and High Rd fruit and veg stall holders Collins to survive in Chiswick the rest of the year.

Support local businesses

‘We need this month to struggle through January and February’ says Spencer. ‘I don’t think it’s fair that the council allows them to be here for just four weeks while we have to battle on, paying business rates and so on’. He plans to write to local MP Rupa Huq to ask for her support to stop this happening again next year and asks for our support.

Pines and Needles is open from 8.00am – 9.00pm and buy in bulk, but it might not work out cheaper buying your tree from them. Pines and Needles charge £5 for a wooden block to stand them on and £15 for delivery, whereas Wheelers provide both for free.

10% off Wheelers Christmas trees and decorations with a Chiswick Calendar club card

And then of course there’s The Chiswick Calendar club card. Club card holders get 10% off Christmas trees from Wheelers. And if we want to continue to be able to buy bedding plants in the spring, cut flowers from Wheelers florist and other services like landscape gardening the rest of the year, we’d better get behind them and support them.

Chiswick artist wins National Open Art award

‘Church’, oil on linen, Marguerite Horner, 2017


Chiswick artist Marguerite Horner has won an award in the 2017 National Open Art competition for one of a series of paintings she made after a visit to the Calais Jungle refugee camp in 2014.

She won the themed category sponsored by MS Amlin insurance company for depicting ‘Continuity in an Uncertain World’ for her painting of the makeshift church built by Eritreans there.

Marguerite went to the Calais Jungle in 2014 with a group organised by the Comboni nuns, who are based on Chiswick Lane. They needed a driver and she had a car. She took lots of photographs and later decided to paint the experience for a one woman show earlier this year in Westminster called ‘Keep Me Safe’.

Lifting ‘the ordinary into the extraordinary’

After getting a degree in Fine Art, Marguerite trained as a scenic artist at the BBC and worked for many years as a commercial artist. She then did her MA and returned to painting with her own voice. She exhibits widely in Art Fairs and Group Shows, including the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and a string of other prestigious shows.

The art critic Lady Marina Vaizey OBE ( former FT and Sunday Times art critic and Turner prize Judge) says Marguerite’s paintings ‘Lift the ordinary into the extraordinary and the specific into the Universal’… they are about… ‘The life behind the eye as well as the life in front of it’.

She spoke to The Chiswick Calendar about the experience of visiting the Calais Jungle and about her work. See also Marguerite’s Facebook page.

Vole Patrol

I am not a rat

There are many types of small mammal living happily in Gunnersbury Triangle. The National Lottery funded ‘Vole Patrol’, an 18 month survey by volunteers to find out which species were alive and well in suburban woodland and more about how they lived. Among the sites surveyed was Gunnersbury Triangle.

The survey found high numbers of wood mice and bank vole, as well as smaller populations of common shrew, pygmy shrew, yellow-necked mouse, and field vole.

Ben Steel went to Gunnersbury Triangle’s autumn open day to meet some of the conservationists and volunteers. Though of course when he went in broad daylight there was not a vole, mouse or shrew to be seen!

A tale of two sports clubs

A major upgrade in sporting facilities at Dukes Meadows is being proposed by Hounslow Council. The proposals are open for public consultation until Monday 27 November and we are invited to have a look at them and give our opinions.

I’ve been to see the display at Chiswick Town Hall and had a look online and it all looks lovely. But to paraphrase the former US Secretary of State for Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the trouble with anything hypothetical like this is that there are ‘the known knowns’, the ‘known unknowns’, but there are also ‘unknown unknowns’ which have led Chiswick Rugby Club to support the proposals but the Old Meadownian Football Club not to at this stage.

Although the plans have come from the London Borough of Hounslow and consultants Continuum, the money for all this is to come from third parties. Once the consultation period is over, the next stage will be for the Parks department to apply to the Planning department for planning permission early in 2018 and then to raise the funds.

Chiswick Rugby Club get £1.3m investment in 4G pitch

Chiswick Rugby Club are fortunate to be acting on a ‘known known’. The Rugby Football Union is proposing to spend £1.3m on building the latest generation of artificial, all weather pitch at Duke’s Meadows. After the 2015 World Cup the RFU announced more than £50m investment which they promised to deliver over four years to provide 100 artificial grass pitches across England in order to grow the game. Chiswick Rugby Club, which has some 500 members, and currently fields four senior teams in addition to the Minis, 200 girls and boys aged 5-13, meet their criteria for investment. The RFU has offered to install a new 4G pitch, which will be lit, enabling the club to play at night as well as in all weathers. The RFU will own the pitch, ring-fencing 12 hours a week for the club and renting it the rest of the time at a reduced rate to others wanting to play rugby. A win – win for the RFU, the Council and the Chiswick Rugby Club.

The Old Meadownians are in a different situation.

Old Meadownians vote against the proposals

The Dukes Meadows proposals would provide a new football pavilion and two 3G artificial grass pitches for football as well as improvements to the grass pitches. ‘What’s not to like?’ you might think.

But unlike the RFU – Chiswick Rugby Club arrangement, the investment, through the Football Association’s Parklife scheme, would be a contract between the London Borough of Hounslow and the FA.

Old Meadownians have ten adult football teams and close ties with Chiswick Meadonians Youth and Chiswick School (they were formed by former pupils at the school). The club is a local success story, both on and off the field, being one of the largest and most successful amateur clubs in the London area, at a time when there is a significant decline in adult male 11-a-side football.

Their problem is this: currently they share changing rooms with the Thames Tradesmen rowing club at Chiswick Boathouse, which is to be knocked down and rebuilt. They have asked for ten changing rooms instead of the six which the Parklife scheme usually provide, as they are a big club. They have been offered preferred partner status with input to the design and operational model, but they say they are being asked to make a ‘leap of faith’ that the requisite funding will be available and they are concerned that they may end up worse off.

Club chairman Derek Barnett says: “the club has serious concerns over the proposed project costs and the uncertainties regarding the available funding such that a significant funding gap may emerge as the business plans and the funding strategies develop in the New Year.

Thus, whilst the current design incorporates sufficient changing rooms and a social space to support Old Meadonians’ requirements, no assurances can be given that these will not be cut back in the final plan resulting in a situation that the club will have access to fewer facilities than those currently available.

In addition, even as a Partner Club, Old Meadonians are likely to pay a pitch hire charge which is significantly more than the club can afford. This is coupled with the fact that the club will have less security of tenure than under the current arrangements. The ‘leap of faith’ requested by Parklife is deemed to be too high a risk for the long term future of a well-managed 88 year old club.

As a consequence Old Meadonians FC have voted to not support the Parklife proposal during the Public Consultation process”.

General improvements

Dukes Meadows is home to a number of sporting clubs. The area of unspoilt common land between Chiswick Bridge and Chiswick Pier is home to the Tideway Skullers rowing club at one end and Chiswick Pier Trust at the other, with Chiswick Rugby Club, Old Meadownians Football Club and Chiswick Cricket Club in between as well as three more rowing clubs, Barnes & Hounslow Hockey Club, two multi-sport centres: Virgin’s Riverside club and the Dukes Meadows Golf & Tennis club and the sportsground for a private school: King’s House, most of whom lease the land from the council.

The sporting facilities share the area with a large number of allotments and the Duke’s Meadows Trust, which runs an adventure playground and paddling pool, the Sunday morning Food Market and artists’ studios. The bandstand by the river is a popular picnic spot at weekends.

The proposals are intended to keep the unspoilt nature of the place but at the same time improve sports facilities. The hockey club is promised an improved pitch as well. The ‘public realm’ plans include things like tidying the bushes and putting in better lighting and signage as well as renovating the band stand.

There would be an increased number of parking spaces and there has been some concern expressed that there will be an increase in traffic generated by the improved sports facilities.

Ginger Whisk joins Abundance London to make chutney

What could be better? A cooking school which likes to use local seasonal produce and a charity which seeks to make good use of fruit that if not picked by their volunteers would go to waste? Ginger Whisk and Abundance London are a marriage made in heaven and they got together last month to make chutneys and preserves in a free community day.

New Remembrance exhibition at St Michael & All Angels

A new exhibition commemorating servicemen from Chiswick who died in World War 1 opens today in St Michael & All Angels Church, Bedford Park. A Choral Requiem Mass will be held in the church at 9.45am on Remembrance Sunday November 12th, followed by a procession to the war memorial outside the Parish Hall.

Those remembered in the exhibition include Commander Walter Sterndale Bennett, RNVR, DSO and Bar, who died of his wounds 100 years ago today, November 7th, in 1917. Another whose life is being commemorated is Lieutenant Arthur Nixon of the Royal Flying Corps who was killed a month after his wedding at St Michael & All Angels.

37 of the 128 servicemen named on the parish war memorials fell in 1917. Ten of their stories are being told on large panels in the church, including photographs of the men and their homes and images of medals, gravestones, maps, a 1917 timeline, letters of condolence and other documents.

New website dedicated to Chiswick’s WW1 dead

It’s the fourth annual World War 1 exhibition at St Michael & All Angels, researched and compiled by one of its congregation, David Beresford. The stories are also now told on a new website devoted to the St Michael & All Angels Church World War I Project, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which you can see here.

There are lesson plans to help teachers use the stories and documents in class. Local schools have been invited to visit the church to see the exhibition and parish war memorials.

David Beresford said: “The number who fell in 1917 is almost as many as the 40 we remembered in the previous three years from August 1914. As the conflict continued, the rate of attrition rose inexorably, requiring constant replenishment of manpower and the compulsory national service of those over the age of 18.”

The Monstrous Regiment marches to a new drum beat

Are there any two words on the internet more sinister than ‘Hello dear’? I made the mistake on Twitter of following this very attractive young man purporting to be from New York, whose Twitter description actually said ‘I’m a really nice guy’. Now usually, in my limited experience of social media, you follow somebody and you never hear from them again. They may show their appreciation of your wit and wisdom occasionally by liking what you write. They may take issue with you on some point or other. But when this guy just contacted me with ‘Hello dear’ followed by ‘Are you there, hun?’ it really gave me the willies. My Twitter handle @Chiswick_Bridge didn’t give him my name but if he’s really from New York he’s not going to want tickets to Jazz at George IV or my opinion on CS9 so the open-ended ‘Hello dear … are you there hun?’ was nothing short of sinister. I showed my son, whose derisive snort confirmed my worst suspicions that this guy had seen my photo and pegged me as a vulnerable middle aged woman ripe for exploitation.

I’ve had the experience twice, once in Brixton and once in Paris, of having a bloke sidle up to me when I was on my own walking in the street at night and say menacingly sotto voce “you’re on your own, aren’t you?” That did the job as well; I was suitably freaked out. You may be thinking ‘this woman’s paranoid’ and it is fair to say that I have an active imagination and watch too many crime dramas. Taggart’s doleful refrain “Therre’s been another murrderr” comes to mind far too easily. But life experience has taught me that men are predatory.

It’s hard to reconcile with the behaviour of the men you know and like, but what is obvious from the current outpouring of women’s experiences of sexual harassment is just how common it is. So common that women don’t usually bother talking about it. In fact every woman can relate tales across the range from catcalling and sexist remarks to groping and a depressingly large number have also experienced serious sexual assault and rape. I think my generation have been ground down to tacit acceptance that ‘tis the nature of the beast. From the joyous blooming of radical feminism when I was a teenager, to the level of hate fuelled comments levelled at Hillary Clinton during the presidential election campaign that were purely gender based, it’s clear that although significant battles have been won, the war goes on.

Rupa Huq MP

“The asymmentry of power relations cements a culture of control”

Rupa Huq MP reported this weekend that she’d been groped by an MEP when she was in her ‘20s. “I didn’t come forward at the time for the reason many women don’t. The asymmetry of power relations cements a culture of control, with the young and powerless fearful that it will be career-ending for them”. I had a similar experience from a journalist colleague in local radio. I did report it to the (male) station manager, who just dismissed it. I also applied for a producer job on Radio 4 for which I was more than qualified and when I asked the editor why I hadn’t even got an interview was told “I’ve got enough little girls who can do research”. I felt exactly the same as Rupa – that it would have done me more harm than him to report such blatant sexism.

So I salute all the women who are coming forward now. This could have happened in any era, but it is the power of social media which enables the sheer volume of voices to be heard. What must happen now though is that instead of organisations like the UK Parliament paying lip service to equality and life just continuing as normal, this has to be translated into a new normality in which sexist behaviour is not tolerated.

Jo Brand chairing ‘Have I Got News For You’

“It (sexism) wears you down”

I watched have I Got News For You on Friday and it was clear that the four male panellists were a bit baffled by this apparent storm in a teacup over a man touching a woman’s knee. It took the token right winger Quentin Letts to declare “this is not a sex scandal”, “this is Jane Austen” and Ian Hislop to turn it into a joke with “Grope and Gropability”, but as four perfectly nice blokes what they failed to realise is that, trivial as it may seem to them, it is the avalanche of low level crap that young women especially receive on a day to day basis that is so demoralising. It took chair Jo Brand to explain (to huge applause from the audience) “It doesn’t have to be high-level for women to feel under siege in somewhere like the House of Commons … for women, if you’re constantly being harassed, even in a small way, that builds up and that wears you down”.

And it’s up to all of us, men and women to call out unfair and unpleasant, demeaning behaviour when we see it, not just duck the issue.

Rediscover your inner ballerina

Before founding the unique Ballet4Life dance organisation 14 years ago in Chiswick, founder Donna Schoenherr’s dance and choreography career had taken her on an international journey. First treading the boards as a child in her native city of New York with the Festival Ballet of New York, Donna went on to train, dance, choreograph and teach across the globe.

Donna’s formative training took place at the prestigious Botsford School in Rochester, New York, where she trained in classical ballet technique, pointe, ballet mime, folk dance, advanced ballroom dance and more.

She went on to dance with the Cleveland Ballet and many other companies and was a Director of Rehearsals at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Michael Mao Dance Co where she was proud to be an integral part of two dance works that were made in collaboration with sight impaired dance artists; groundbreaking works which toured the country.

She continued to tour as a dancer, teacher and choreographer throughout the U.S. and Mexico, as well as across Europe before settling in her chosen home of West London where she has lived for the past twenty years. Alongside her dance career Donna finds creative release as an avid and established painter and photographer. Her works hang in private collections across the world.

Living with her husband and child in Chiswick, Donna’s love of dance and of her chosen local community prompted her to found Ballet4Life in 2004, as one of the first organisations to provide adult learners in London with comprehensive programmes of high-quality ballet and dance classes/courses.

The B4L class line up includes pointe, masterclasses, contemporary dance, beginner courses, barre and 50+ ballet classes; which have proven especially popular, making many a childhood ballet dream come true for Chiswick locals! Refusing to rest on her laurels, Donna, along and other volunteers launched umbrella charity initiative Move into Wellbeing in 2015 as a dance programme for people living with Parkinson’s and other mobility restrictions.

Move into Wellbeing was inspired by Donna’s father who lived with Parkinson’s for thirty years and who she saw benefit hugely from music and movement based therapy. Move into Wellbeing was pleased to receive funding from One You Hounslow last year and thrilled to receive full registered charity status earlier this year.

Ballet4Life prides itself on being an independently run and trusted part of the West London community and is the only place to offer adults Beginner Ballet Courses, Pointe classes, Contemporary dance and 50+ dance classes in the local area. Ballet4Life also offers concession rates for unwaged, students, pensioners, and theatre arts professional. Check out their Freedom Dancers Passes here.

Ballet4Life is proud to have a host of expert, professional and welcoming dance-teachers lead its classes. As Founder Donna notes Ballet4Life’s ‘first class was held at the Rambert Dance School and now Mark Kelly from the Rambert has joined the Ballet4Life team to complete the circle and teaches our lovely clients ballet and contemporary dance in Chiswick’.
Follow Donna’s art Instagram here: @donna_schoenherr

EFG London Jazz Festival

The legendary Bull’s Head, sometimes called the ‘suburban Ronnie Scott’s’ by the river in Barnes is fast approaching its 58th anniversary. Named as one of the 12 venues which had made the most important contribution to live jazz in the UK, the renovated Jazz Room has a unique ambiance where the stage and the audience share a special intimacy. Among some of the world’s famous names to have played at the Bull are Coleman Hawkins, Alan Price, Tubby Hayes, Blossom Dearie, Jamie Cullum, Stan Tracey, Jimmy Witherspoon, Mick Jagger, Shakatak, Claire Martin, Jim Mullen, Alan Barnes, James Torme, Maggie Bell, Peter King, Art Themen, Mari Wilson, Sarah Jane Morris, Barb Jungr and Antonio Forcione to name just a few.

Still putting on live music 7 days a week, the Bull’s Head’s rich musical heritage continues to flourish at one of Barnes’s finest gastro pubs and as such is heavily involved in this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival with nine shows running through the festival dates between Friday 10 to Sunday 19 November. From the funky Groove Warriors to the close harmony jazz of the fabulous Haywood Sisters via the much-feted saxophonist Art Themen and his New Directions Quintet to the World Jazz & Latin of Chico Chica and Gill Manly’s critically acclaimed Nina Simone show “I Put A Spell On You” there is indeed something for all over the festival dates at this iconic venue.

For details of shows at the Bull’s Head in the EFG London Jazz Festival and to book tickets go here. For the ticket offer outlined in the 31/10/2017 newsletter quote Jazz Hands.

Tenor saxophone photograph by Wakalani.

Formal consultation ends on Cycle Superhighway

The last day of the formal consultation period for comments on CS9 is Tuesday 31 October 2017. This despite the fact that local councillors in Chiswick and Hammersmith have asked for an extension, as have Chiswick High Rd traders at a meeting with Ruth Cadbury MP last Thursday. This despite the fact also that TfL don’t yet have the results of the Environmental Impact survey they commissioned, so they aren’t able to tell us what the environmental impact of their proposals might be. I have been trying to find out when TfL expect to get the result of the Environmental Impact survey because it seems to me that is vital information that we need in order to make up our minds as to whether CS9 will deliver the positive outcomes TfL hope it will. No joy as yet.

Traders’ consultation ‘deeply unsatisfactory’

Around 30 traders met Ruth Cadbury MP at Outsider Tart last Thursday to discuss their concerns. Despite assurances from TfL that traders would be consulted, a quick show of hands revealed that some had not yet had any direct consultation from TfL about how their businesses might be affected and it quickly emerged in discussion that those who had found the process deeply unsatisfactory.

There are around 800 businesses directly affected by the proposal to route a two way cycle lane along the south side of the High Rd. TfL has commissioned a third party, a survey company, to go round to businesses and talk to them. But instead of making appointments so that the business owner is present, they have just called in unannounced and spoken to whoever is in the shop, leaving junior staff to field their questions. Instead of having a two-way conversation with someone from TfL who knows the details of the proposal and might be able to answer questions and address their concerns, traders have just been asked to provide answers to a set list of questions for a survey, leaving them none the wiser as to how their business would be affected.

The traders present asked Ruth Cadbury to see if she could get an extension of the consultation period as people are only just finding out about CS9 and don’t yet understand enough about the details, which many people have said are unclear on their plans, to make a sensible assessment of what the proposals might mean for them.

Where are the hearses supposed to park?

Among those represented at the traders meeting was W.S. Bond the funeral directors on the High Rd, who wanted to know where their hearses were supposed to park to load an unload coffins. Under the TfL proposal their shot front would be beside the cycle route, with a double yellow line preventing parking in the road. They have no access at the back of their premises.

Others wanted to know how the two nurseries on British Grove were supposed to survive. They currently have around 75 children being dropped off and picked up by car. In order for that to continue under the new proposals, as far as residents can tell from the plans, parents would have to drive in through St Peter’s Square, negotiate the very tight bend into the narrow Berestede Rd at peak rush hour times when residents are also trying to get out to work.

Businesses in Devonshire Rd were concerned that the priority given to cyclists on Chiswick High Rd at the junction with Devonshire Rd would make it much harder for people to drive in to Devonshire Rd, with a resulting negative impact on trade.

Dog Town, who have just opened up on the High Rd, were concerned that the introduction of a double yellow line would kill their business. They provide physiotherapy and hydrotherapy to injured animals which by definition cannot walk to the premises and many of which are too heavy to be carried. Another businessman who relied on people coming in to Chiswick from outside the area for 80% his business also says that if they can’t park his customers won’t come any more.

Ruth Cadbury offered to lead a fact finding trip to another area of London where a Cycle Superhighway has already been introduced in a residential area, to see what the impact on businesses had been, but traders were luke warm in their enthusiasm for this idea, many of them having a very clear idea of how they thought their trade would be affected.

Comments will still be considered

Joy Wigg, Senior Sponsor at TfL told me that even though they were sticking with the 31 October deadline for the online consultation, they would still welcome comments after that date by email. She said they’d already received a lot of feedback and that the next step would be for TfL to take a report to Hounslow council, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea and to the relevant TfL board. She also said that she would be happy to meet traders with members of her team to answer specific questions and get feedback to the plans and that it wouldn’t matter that this was after the online consultation cut off point as the conversation would still continue for a while yet.

Give your views online by Tuesday 31 October here:
After 31 October (but don’t leave it too long!) email:

Strand on the Green gets another blue plaque

The actor Donald Pleasance has joined artist Johann Zoffany among the riverside dwellers of Strand on the Green to be honoured by a blue plaque. Donald Pleasance starred in TV series in the 1950s such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Danger Man and graduated to film roles such as Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice and Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler in The Eagle Has Landed.

He lived in the cottages beside the Bull’s Head from the late ’60s until 1985. His best known role was perhaps that of Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe, the prisoner whose job it was to forge the escapees’ German papers and is determined to escape himself despite the fact that he’s nearly blind. In real life he did actually serve in Bomber Command and was shot down and taken prisoner, but not at Stalag Luft III.

I’m dead chuffed to find out that Donald Pleasance used to live round the corner from me. John Thaw and Sheila Hancock used to live at the end of the road but they moved out the day we moved in. I never found out who told them.

Grasping at straws

I mentioned last week that Paul Hyman, founder of Active 360, the Paddleboarding company at Kew Bridge, has written to Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow Council, to ask him to use his influence with Hounslow Highways to empty the bins by the river more regularly, because when the bins are full people dump their rubbish beside them and he says, a lot of it ends up in the water.

He also wrote to Fullers to ask them if they would stop using plastic straws in riverside pubs and maybe consider a deposit on returned plastic glasses. Their head of Corporate Affairs Georgina Wald replied, saying they use glass rather than plastic where they can. “You’ll be pleased to know that we are already looking at the plastic straw issue. A member of my team shares your concerns in this matter and has been pushing for a change internally. I know a great deal of work has been undertaken by our purchasing team to source an alternative and I do hope that you will soon see a change”.

Paul suggests that Councillor Amritpal Mann, Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council and Cabinet Member for Environment might like to hear from anyone who has evidence of rubbish left lying by already overflowing riverside bins. Here’s his email address:

Chiswick Book Festival

Imogen Stubbs

The ninth Chiswick Book Festival opens on Thursday 14 September with An Evening with Jane Austen at Chiswick House, the same day that the £10 note with her picture on it is published, celebrating 200 years of her life and work. Imogen Stubbs, who played Lucy Steele in the award-winning film Sense & Sensibility, will read extracts from Austen chosen by the event’s other speakers, Paula Byrne (The Genius of Jane Austen), Helena Kelly (Jane Austen: The Secret Radical) and Dr Esme Whittaker, the curator of Chiswick House.

To see Helena Kelly talking to me about her book, in which she explains why she thinks Jane Austen was more of a radical than we have given her credit for, watch the video below.

Elizabeth Buchan will also be appearing at the Chiswick Book Festival to talk about her book The New Mrs Clifton. Carol Douglas reviews it here.

“I think all the presenters will be asked to take pay cuts” says Jeremy Vine

The BBC’s highest paid journalist, Jeremy Vine, thinks that BBC presenters will be asked to take pay cuts as a result of the summer’s row about the gender gap in pay at the BBC. Jeremy is appearing at the Chiswick Book Festival next weekend and talked to me about his book ‘What I learnt’ and about the decision by BBC Director General Tony Hall to commission Price Waterhouse Cooper to carry out an equal pay audit. “I think all the presenters will probably be asked to take pay cuts” he said. “That’s probably what’s going to happen. It seems to me a logical outcome”.

Tony Hall announced the pay review last week. In July it was revealed that while Claudia Winkleman is the highest female presenter, earning between £450,000 and £500,000 last year, the highest paid male presenter Chris Evans earns between £2,000,000 and £2,500,000. Fiona Bruce earns between £250,000 and £300,000 but Huw Edwards earns between £350,000 and £400,000. They both present the BBC News at Ten. Jeremy Vine is the BBC’s highest paid journalist at £700,000 – £750,000 and has faced members of the public shouting at him that he should be ashamed.

Jeremy will be talking about ‘What I Learnt’ on Saturday 16 September at 7.30pm in St Michael & All Angels Church. In it he tells some entertaining anecdotes about his time on the quiz show Eggheads and Strictly Come Dancing as well as his Radio Two show and he talks about what he’s learnt from his audience.

Book tickets on the Chiswick Book Festival website.

Watch the video interview to find out why he thinks his audience no longer trusts experts, why taking part in Strictly Come Dancing sparked a health scare and the huge embarrassment caused by a simple Christmas present.

The Curve rears its ugly head again

The developer of the Chiswick Curve has announced that it is appealing against the London Borough of Hounslow’s refusal to grant planning permission for a 32 storey tower and three enormous digital advertising hoardings at Chiswick roundabout.

Residents in Chiswick thought they’d seen off the tower block threat when Hounslow Council Planning Committee turned it down unanimously in January on the advice of their planning officials. Now the fight will have to begin all over again if the council is to win its case.

Public Inquiry

It’s not yet known on what grounds the developers are appealing. West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society, who have been leading the opposition to the Curve, has been taken somewhat by surprise by the appeal, as they thought the developer would make a few changes and resubmit their application with amendments.

Chairman of the WCGS, Marie Rabouhans told me they now find themselves in the novel position of supporting the council, whereas historically they have usually found themselves in opposition.

The Government’s Planning Inspectorate has written to Marilyn Smith, Hounslow’s Chief Planning Officer, to advise the council of the appeal and that it will be the subject of a Public Inquiry, which is expected to last at least three days. Marie will be asking for West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society to be represented at the Inquiry and for permission to speak against the development.

In order for the council to defeat the appeal, it will need public support in the form of written objections, for which the deadline is 19th September (see below).

A blot on the landscape

On what grounds does Hounslow Council and local residents oppose the Curve? The Chief Planning Officer advised the council to refuse planning permission primarily on the grounds of ugliness. The skyscraper was just too tall and would stick out in the surrounding landscape, blighting the view for miles around and most notably changing the aspect from the river and Kew Gardens. The ‘substantial harm’ would outweigh any public benefit and it would ruin the skyline.

It was not just residents’ and community groups who opposed the development. Opposition was cross party and included institutions such as English Heritage. West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society also argued that the Curve would increase traffic congestion and put added pressure on public transport and Chiswick’s infrastructure as well as increasing air pollution. For more details of the case against the Curve, go to WCGS website.

Or watch the interviews I recorded last year at the public meeting organised to galvanise opposition, with Marie Rabouhans

Barbara Weiss, the architect and founder of the Skyline Campaign

And Andrea Lee, campaigner for clean air.

Now write a letter

Opponents of the Curve now have until 19th September to write to the Inspectorate. Marie says:

“If these Appeals are to be defeated, it is essential that as many of us as possible write to the Planning Inspectorate explaining why we support the Council’s refusal”.

The easiest way to send your comments is to e-mail them to the Planning Inspectorate case officer, Elizabeth Humphreys:

Put the Appeal reference as the subject. The reference for the main appeal for the building is APP/F5540/W/17/3180962; you can include comments on the linked appeal for the media screens (APP/F5540/Z/17/3173208) within the same document provided you indicate this clearly. Give the address of the appeal site [Land at Chiswick Roundabout, London W4 4QB] and provide your name and address.

Meet the Chiswick in Pictures artists

Chiswick in Pictures

I have spent a happy few days drawing squares and rectangles on graph paper, cutting them out and incessantly rearranging them. Why? Because The Chiswick Calendar is organising an exhibition.

Since its inception our website has featured the work of local photographers and artists with a different picture of Chiswick on the home page each day and for the best part of three years I’ve been thinking about drawing some of that work together for people to see on display. With the collaboration of the Clayton Hotel Chiswick this idea is now coming to fruition.

Called ‘Chiswick in Pictures’ the exhibition will run from Thursday 7 September until Saturday 28 October at the Clayton Hotel Chiswick, 626 Chiswick High Rd, W4 5RY and will feature the work of 16 local artists and photographers, including that of some of Chiswick’s best known artists, Francis and Jason Bowyer and Liz Butler.

The Bowyers are a well-known family of artists. Jason Bowyer P.P.N.E.A.C., R.P, P.S is a member of the New English Art Club and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Born and bred in Chiswick, he went to Chiswick School before training at the Camberwell School of Art and the Royal Academy. As well as teaching and exhibiting, he has been artist in residence at Fulham Football Club and Championship artist for Wimbledon. His TV appearances include ‘Watercolour Challenge’ with Hannah Gordon for Channel Four and ‘Britain and the Sea’ with David Dimbleby for BBC1.

Francis Bowyer P.P.R.W.S., N.E.A.C.​ studied at St Martin’s School of Art and Chelsea School of Art. He too is a member of the New English Art Club and exhibits regularly at the Royal Watercolour Society, where he served for three years as president. Winner of The Arts Club Prize at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1994 and the Turner Watercolour Prize in 2014, his work is held in the Royal Collection and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales Collection, so we’ll be in good company looking at his pictures. Both brothers did a stint at Count Bastion in Afghanistan as War Artists with REME, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

Liz Butler, MA, RWS was born in Cumbria and educated at Liverpool College of Art and the Royal College of Art. She is well known for her miniature paintings of gardens and her use of pure watercolour. She has been a member of the Royal Watercolour Society for more than 20 years and her work is in several major collections including the Government Art Collection, the Royal Collection, Harewood House and the National Postal Archive.

Their work will appear alongside that of other local artists whose work is regularly shown in galleries and open studios: landscape artist Joanna Brendon MBE, MA, watercolourist and illustrator Christine Berrington, mixed media artists Jane Price and Jenny Price, print makers Rachel Busch and Rennie Pilgrem, landscape artists Natalia Bobrova, Patricia Wyndham and Arabella Harcourt-Cooze who paints river landscapes in oils, and Jill Meager whose superb birds and animals are drawn in charcoal and pastels.

The photographers’ work you will recognise from The Chiswick Calendar website. Jon Perry is well-known in Chiswick for his artistic landscapes. His picture of a fox having a fish and chip supper on Chiswick High Rd won him a place in last year’s British Wildlife Photography awards.

Anna Kunst is better known for her portrait photography, capturing moments of emotion and turning them into evocative images, but she also places those moments of human interaction in the setting of familiar Chiswick landscapes. Barbara Chandler is known as a street photographer through her prestigious shows in the West End, her book Love London and her prints and textiles which have sold worldwide from London to New York, Paris, Milan, Dublin and Tokyo.

Twenty percent of the sale price of all the work on show will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital. The exhibition will be in a public area in the hotel and you can just wander in and have a look at any time during the show, not forgetting that your Chiswick Calendar club card will get you a ten percent discount in the bar and the restaurant.

Get out of your cars and pedal your bikes!

Guest blog by Ruth Mayorcas

Even small increases in physical activity among those who are the least active can bring great health benefits. As the former Chief Medical Officer noted:
“The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or miracle cure”.

Cycling not cyclist

I gave a short presentation to the Chiswick Area Forum a couple weeks ago at which I called on the Councillors to support measures which are to be introduced by both the Local Council and the GLA to improve the Air Quality and the Street Scene in Chiswick. This is how I prefaced it.

Air Pollution in Chiswick

We know that Air Pollution is at an all-time high in the London Borough of Hounslow as a whole and not least in Chiswick. This is in part because we are close to Heathrow Airport but also because the main A4/M4 corridor all the way from Wales continues through here, effectively cutting Chiswick in two and making getting across from Grove Park to the High Rd for local residents a huge headache; traffic flows from the A316 which use Sutton Ct Rd as a main route through to the High Road and beyond compound the problem.

Increase in Diabetes & Obesity

Along with Pollution which is killing thousands of Londoners year on year there is an increase in obesity and diabetes brought about by inactivity. Walking and cycling in traffic calmed and quieter roads would improve the health of so many, thereby saving the NHS millions of pounds each year.

This photo shows the result of all this traffic and how the High Road looks on a Sunday – note how the cycle lane is totally covered in parked cars and how a bus is stuck west bound. Instead of a pleasant space making walking, cycling and eating al fresco an enjoyable experience it is one of Pollution – both air and noise.

Increasing congestion

I have lived in Chiswick for forty years, since 1976 and have always cycled – in the 70s and 80s it was a normal thing to do. As time went on car ownership increased along with school choice meaning the school run came into being.

In 2002-3 I was part of a team of parents at both Belmont Primary School and Chiswick Community School working with the teachers on the ‘Safe Routes to School’ scheme which had been introduced by the Government of the time and to which every school had to sign up. Surveys were carried out with the pupils and up to 70% said they would like to cycle if they could. Unfortunately very little progress was made before the scheme was disbanded in 2010. In spite of the reintroduction of the scheme recent efforts have been unsuccessful. Amusingly, my son who was cycled to school every day as a child once asked if I could be a ‘normal’ mother and drive!

Unfortunately there is push-back from locals who defend their right to drive to school, to have parking very accessible and also from businesses who believe that they only survive if people can drive to shop. The result is that very few parents cycle with their children to primary school and very few pupils cycle to secondary school unaccompanied. It is very noticeable that in school holidays the roads are so much quieter, proving that much of the traffic is the school run. The health of our young people is very poor compared to their European counterpoints because effectively they rarely walk or cycle.

Shopping trike instead of a car!

Whenever cycling is mentioned as a means of getting about and reducing motor vehicle capacity is mooted in favour of safer cycling and walking infrastructure the word ‘disabled’ pops up as an argument against any such measures I’m always told that ‘not everyone can cycle’ and ‘what about the disabled?’. Well here is an example of how a mobility impaired person finds cycling infinitely the best way to get about and to shop locally.

The bike on the left is mine – often seen up and down the High Road as I do my shopping. The trike on the right belongs to a woman in her late 60s who has had back surgery and can only walk with two walking sticks and with great difficulty. She uses the trike to shop – her shopping was seriously heavy – and her cat basket when she needs it, fits on top of the cage. She told me that she mostly uses the pavement because drivers are very impatient and the biggest difficulty she encounters is when people park across drop down kerbs preventing her from crossing the road. A recent tweet from a trike user said: “I have bilateral hip dysplasia and four years ago I bought a tricycle and it has changed my life”.

Mayor’s Transport Strategy

The GLA has just published a list of measures for consideration by London Boroughs with some ‘high priority’ actions. These measures appear within the Council’s own document ‘Hounslow’s Air Quality Action Plan. Initiatives such as Very Important Pedestrian Days (eg. no vehicles on certain roads on a Sunday), ‘Reallocation of road space; reducing parking at accessible destinations and/or restricting parking on congested high streets and busy roads to improve bus journey times, cycling experience and reduce emissions caused by congested traffic.’ To see the Mayor’s Transport Strategy click here.

Too Many Cars

Car ownership and driving has increased in this part of the Borough contrary to current trends in London. The new breed of 4x4s are so big they are wider than the newly widened parking bays making streets incredibly difficult for those who walk and cycle to navigate. The massive increase in Uber, PHVs and Delivery vans using Satnav and Waze now proliferate in small residential streets as the drivers endlessly try to find quicker ways to get from one end of Chiswick to the other. All this can deter people who would like to walk and cycle and creates an unpleasant environment instead of that which could be such an attractive High Street and all the streets beyond.

Holland streets ahead

Chiswick benefits from having three tube stations, two Overground stations and one mainline station, not mention at least eight regular bus routes and a night bus negating the perceived need for car use.

These photos of people cycling in Holland show what can happen where streets are traffic calmed and space is given over to walking, cycling and al fresco eating spaces.

It could be so wonderful if only we are prepared to give it a go and to realise just how dirty, noisy and polluted our High Road is currently and how it could be transformed.

Ruth Mayorcas is a member of the Hounslow Cycling Campaign and Labour activist

Inspiring Women at Chiswick Book Festival

On the day Jane Austen appears on the new £10 note in September, marking 200 years since her death, the Chiswick Book Festival will open, presenting many inspiring women speakers on a wide range of subjects. Clare Balding, Jo Malone, Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Outen, Martine Wright and many others will be speaking, and there will also be timely sessions on Austen herself and Queen Victoria.

Tickets for the Festival are now on sale at, where the full programme is available.

The life and work of Jane Austen will be celebrated at the Festival’s opening event on Thursday September 14th in the glorious surroundings of Chiswick House & Gardens, with the House’s curator Dr Esme Whittaker of English Heritage, Paula Byrne (The Genius of Jane Austen) and Helena Kelly (Jane Austen, The Secret Radical).

On Friday 15th, Clare Balding, a tireless champion of women in sport, will introduce her new book, The Racehorse That Disappeared, the second brilliant adventure story about her inspiring young heroine Charlie Bass.

On Saturday 16th, Martine Wright (Unbroken), who competed in the Paralympics after losing her legs in the 7/7 London bombings, tells her own inspiring story in an interview with sports journalist Sue Mott.

Sarah Outen

On Sunday 17th, fragrance entrepreneur Jo Malone (My Story) and athlete and super-adventurer Sarah Outen (Dare To Do) will discuss what it takes to keep going when things don’t quite go to plan. And Somerset Maugham and Costa Prize winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell will talk about her writing and new memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am, with acclaimed author and journalist Cathy Rentzenbrink.

The role of women in war will be discussed by Anne Sebba (Les Parisiennes) and best-selling novelist Elizabeth Buchan (The New Mrs Clifton); and that of women in Ancient Greece by Radio 4 broadcaster and comedian Natalie Haynes, whose second novel is The Children of Jocasta.

And one of history’s most powerful women, Queen Victoria, will be the subject of ‘Victoria & Abdul – and a Game of Thrones’ as the new film opens starring Dame Judi Dench. Shrabani Basu is the author of the book which inspired the film – Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant. Deborah Cadbury’s new book, Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking, describes the Royal marriages that shaped Europe and how seven of Victoria’s grandchildren came to occupy Europe’s thrones.

Jeremy Vine

But there is no shortage of men at this year’s Chiswick Book Festival – and there is also a full Children’s Festival programme and a series of workshops for aspiring writers. Male authors speaking will include Oz Clarke, Hunter Davies, Peter Hennessy, Robin Lustig, Harry Mount, John O’Farrell, Craig Oliver, Laurence Rees, Marcel Theroux and Jeremy Vine.

The worm has turned – at last!

I’ve never understood why the gender pay gap persists after the Equality Pay Act of 1970 and the Equality Act of 2010. Presumably there are ways round the law but on the face of it you would think that the 40 + women presenters at the BBC who have written to Director General Tony Hall to complain of the unfair disparity between their pay and that of their male colleagues would have a strong case for suing the corporation on the grounds of discrimination.

Jane Garvey, one of the presenters of Woman’s Hour, was all for doing just that but already they have compromised by sending an utterly reasonable letter urging him to “correct this disparity” over pay now rather than waiting until his target of 2020, instead of dispatching a lawyer’s writ. “We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now” it says. They are prepared to meet him to discuss it.

The release of details in the BBC’s annual report of how much presenters are paid has merely confirmed what anyone who has worked in the BBC has suspected for many years, that women are being paid less than men for the same work. Until now it’s been hard to prove because negotiations over pay are individual and private, but I’m willing to bet that behind the personalities on camera there is a whole phalanx of women producers and technicians also being paid less than their peers and the same will be the case in the independent sector.

So why is it that women are so undervalued? It’s partly historic. Women carry that legacy of decades of enforced housewifery. If you’re married you’re still presumed to be working by choice and likely to change your mind about it at any moment because it’s assumed that you have a husband who earns more and that theirs is the more serious career, or that you will get pregnant and pack it all in. When I worked on 5Live I wanted to change from night shifts to days shifts because my epileptic husband took such strong drugs that it wasn’t safe to leave him overnight in charge of a baby. When I broached the idea with my male manager he looked confused. He said they had arrangements for working mothers in place and I could choose to work part time. The idea of a married woman and mother who was also serious about her career didn’t compute and the notion that I might be the main breadwinner evidently just didn’t enter his head. I didn’t fit with his perception of what a working mother should be.

It goes deeper than that though. There are men who consider men to be superior; just better. When I applied in the early ‘80s for a producer job in radio current affairs which I should have been able to get, I didn’t even get an interview. When I asked the editor for feedback he literally said “I have enough little girls who can do research”. I should have sued him but I was so mortified I didn’t want anyone to know about it, let alone advertise my humiliation and I assumed people in power would believe him not me and I wouldn’t get a job anywhere in the BBC if I spoke up.

It is that insidious way the BBC establishment has of playing individuals off against each other which has also stopped women breaking through this conspiracy of unfairness thus far. Presenters are in a vulnerable position. When you perform on air your self is what you offer – your personality, looks, intelligence, charm, sense of humour, depth of knowledge and experience as well as your ability to read an autocue, write a script and do an interview. So when you put your head above the parapet and say “I’m worth more” you are inviting the answer “no you’re not, for the following reasons…” opening yourself up to a character assassination that doesn’t help you maintain the confidence you need to go on air.

If you have a show named after you or you are the sole presenter it puts you in a much stronger position. Jeremy Vine’s audience figures are twice those of Woman’s Hour but if the Woman’s Hour presenters aren’t making £150,000 they’re earning between a quarter and a fifth of his salary. You can argue he’s worth more because he’s more popular, but not five times more popular. I can see how John Humphrys is worth more than anyone else on the Today programme because he’s the character you associate with the ethos of the programme. But more than four times as much as the least paid presenter? And for Nick Robinson to be on £250,000 – £299,000 while Mishal Husain earns between £50,000 and £100,000 less is outrageous. Nick Robinson is not even a good interviewer; he’s far too interested in his own views to care about what his guests think.

But the most egregious sin is that Sarah Montague doesn’t even make the £150,000 bracket. That means she earns around half what he does. She has been at the BBC since 1997 and has presented Newsnight, Breakfast with Frost and Hardtalk on BBC World, as well as Today. And she’s good! She actually listens to what her interviewee is saying. This is a clear cut case of workers doing the same job – they all start work in the middle of the night, they all have to perform for three hours at the end of the shift when they are their most tired and they all have to stay across the news 24/7. But men are generally more pushy than women. I know for a fact that Nick Robinson makes a point of trying to get the coveted 8.10 interview for himself. This ruthless self-advancement came to a head during the election when it was reported by the Guardian that he was trying to get Sarah off the rota so he could present on the morning after the election.

I’ve worked with several of the women presenters who’ve written to Tony Hall and count a few of them as friends. They are not ruthless egomaniacs and maybe that is their problem. Now there is an opportunity to act together and make a breakthrough not just for themselves and the women coming after them but for the ranks of producers, researchers and technicians who are fed up with being screwed. So I hope the sisterhood stays strong and refuses to be mollified or picked off individually with little sweeteners. Stay strong sisters!

Who even has a woodpile these days?

We spent a happy weekend promoting The Chiswick Calendar and the Club Card at the summer party at Chiswick Village on Saturday and the Party on the Pier at Corney Reach on Sunday, both lovely, fun community events (a dads’ sack race with pillow cases is always a winner). Taking down people’s names and email addresses makes you realise how fully global our London population is. It’s not just that people come from other places, their own heritage is mixed: “It’s a Moroccan name, I’ll spell it for you, but I use my maiden name Cox for my email address … or maybe I’ll give you my business address… That’s Spanish” … “It’s Swedish … Japanese … Sri Lankan.”

It just makes you all the more incredulous that an MP – a Member of Parliament – could be such a Neanderthal. When Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris casually used the phrase ‘nigger in the woodpile’ to describe a hidden problem when talking about something completely unconnected with race she used a phrase which was commonplace in my 1960s childhood, like golliwogs and “eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch a nigger by his toe”, the standard rhyme for facilitating choice. The fact that it was considered normal then is no excuse. Most of us have moved on. Has she no Black friends? Acquaintances? Colleagues? I know she’s MP for Newton Abbot in Devon but she works in London. Has she never had that conversation with a Black person where they patiently explain why the casual racism they come across every day and particularly the N word is so offensive? I have friends in Devon who don’t come across a Black person from one week to the next but they have the emotional intelligence to understand that using a word which comes from the days of slavery, which says “I own you”, “you are less than human”, “I can do with you what I want” inspires outrage.

You’d think at very least she’d have seen Rush Hour. I love that film. Chris Tucker plays Detective James Carter, an LA cop who is stuck with babysitting Hong Kong Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) who is in town to look for the daughter of the Chinese ambassador, who’s been kidnapped. They go in to a bar so that Carter can talk to his criminally connected cousin. “Just do as I do – but stay there” he says as he walks up to the barman, says “Wassup my nigga” and is admitted to the private room behind the bar. Sometime later, tired of waiting for him, Lee thinks he’ll do the same. He goes up to the bar and with his innocent smiley face and tortured English says brightly “Wassup my nigga?” sparking one of the best bar fights on film. Watch it below.

The moral of the story being that it might be ok for Black people to play around with the vocabulary but not others. The Conservative Party has withdrawn the whip. But they should go further. A programme of re-education by Hollywood beginning with Mississippi Burning (1988 Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, another great film) and ending with Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave, and of course Rush Hour. Then maybe a quiet word with Diane Abbott. Or in the words of a ditty with which she will be familiar “out you must go”.

Majority of Chiswick councillors not standing for re-election

Five out of nine of Chiswick’s Conservative councillors will not be standing for re-election in the local elections next year, with a question mark over a sixth, Robert Oulds, who has been booted out by Chiswick Homefields, the ward he has represented for fifteen years. After next May the only familiar faces will be Sam Hearn, Gerald McGregor and John Todd. Robert Oulds may put himself forward for selection in the Turnham Green ward.

In Chiswick all the current councillors are Conservative. With the exception of two Conservative councillors in Osterley and Spring Grove and one councillor whose political allegiance is ‘unspecified’ all the rest of Hounslow council are Labour. I spoke to Sam Hearn, one of the councillors for Chiswick Riverside and leader of the Conservative group, about what’s caused this mass exodus and who we might get instead.

We have progress on the Chiswick Timeline, the big mural at Turnham Green!

Guest blog by Karen Liebreich

We have sign-off on the structural stuff…

When we started this project we naively assumed that the mural would somehow be simply pegged onto the walls by some unspecified but of course very cheap and simple method. It turns out – unsurprisingly in retrospect – that as each metal panel (2.5m x 2.85m) is made of mild steel and weighs 65kg, and there are 41 of them in total, they need some serious framework to hold them on. We are talking serious to the tune of about £18,000-worth – thank you all you donors! There has been much clever discussion (in which we did not participate but merely nodded wisely, if vaguely) about resin anchored studs, elasticity, momentums of resistance, steel welded gusset plates, composite sleeves, and so forth.

We visited the factory

We are becoming Vitreous Enamel bores or, as we prefer to call it, VE experts. We drove down to St Leonards, to the Links Signs factory, which is our preferred supplier. It is a family firm, run by two brothers, James and Tony Kidby. Sarah played ‘pantone matching colours’ with James, while Tony showed Karen how hard you have to swing a hammer to smash a VE panel. (The answer is very).

Then we went into the factory proper and gasped at the first sample panel that Links had created in vinyl so that we could get an idea of the size. We had only previously seen our designs on an A4 sheet, or a computer screen, so we were completely blown away to see it life size. It was so big! And so bright! Then James strode off into the distance to show us how far away the other end of the artwork would be once all the panels were ready. If you people of Chiswick don’t like this mural, we will probably have to flee the country, because it’s going to be … big … and bold!

Next steps

Links will start manufacturing the framework and preparing the panels ready for screen printing the maps and transfer printing the images. They are about to do some test pieces to make sure the colours all come out right. Meanwhile, having got the infrastructure department ticked off, the project now goes to the legal departments of TfL and Hounslow. Who’d have thought there was so much fun involved in a simple little mural. Or even a complicated big mural!

Best regards
Karen & Sarah
Karen Liebreich and Sarah Cruz of Abundance London

Read more about Karen and about Abundance London

See our profile of Karen Liebreich here

Read a feature about the work of Abundance London here

Do you fancy being a patron?

Chiswick House is looking for “Summer Parlour Patrons”

Chiswick House & Gardens Trust has recently taken over the running of the Grade 1 listed house and needs the wherewithal to run it as well as the magnificently restored 18th Century Gardens, created by Lord Burlington and William Kent and managed now by Geraldine King and her staff with a posse of volunteers. We rather take for granted the freedom to roam the award winning 65 acre estate from 7.00 am until dusk every day for free and appreciate the lake, the classic bridge, the cascade, the Italian Garden, the Orange Tree Garden and so forth, but keeping it looking so good costs money.

The Trust is pleased to announce that they will be opening the house and holding more events there. I went to ‘Light Divine, Night Sublime’ recently, an evening of Handel’s music with a very entertaining narrator telling us about the life of the great composer, sponsored by Horton & Garton estate agents. It was lovely sitting in the neo-Palladian splendour of the central domed reception room and being transported back to the 1700s by world class musicians.

Director Clare O’Brien announced the launch of the “Summer Parlour Patrons” scheme. For £250 you will be invited to a gala reception in the house with the Chairman and members can also look forward to ‘exclusive tours, insider guides to the history and personalities of Chiswick, and early access to the Trust’s events’. Fundraising Manager Kate Edmunds would love to hear from you. Tel: 0203 141 3365 / email: